tv Great Decisions in Foreign Policy PBS May 17, 2018 12:00am-12:31am PDT
(upbeat music) - [narrator] a major breaking story as we come on. a military coup underway right now in turkey. - [female narrator] there's presumed military coup underway. - [male narrator] tanks on the move, military jets flying overheard. - [female narrator] a very confused and chaotic picture. - [male narrator] we do not know the whereabouts of the turkish president, recep tayyip erdogan. - [female narrator] the military says, they have taken control. turkish president erdogan, has been speaking on national television. - [male narrator] the president made this statement to the public, via facetime. the president went onto say, "millions are now in the streets of turkey, "protesting the uprising" - [narrator] some video here from just a short time ago. showing soldiers surrendering to forces loyal to the government. - [male narrator] turkish officials say, they have stopped the coup. and turkey's president says, the government is now in charge.
- [narrator] once seen as a model of democracy, the tide seems to be turning in turkey. cep tayyip erdogan, - [narrator] once seen as a model of democracy, used a failed coup d'etat, in 2016 as a means of consolidating his own power. power he says, is necessary to secure the state. great descision's producers, traveled to turkey, to examine the relationship with this key u.s. ally. - [man] thank you for joining us in great decisions. - [narrator] turkey. a partner in crisis, next, on great decisions. (epic music) great decisions is produced by the foreign policy association. in association with thompson reuters. funding for great decisions is provided by price waterhouse coopers llp. (ethnic music)
turkey was once the seat of the powerful ottoman empire. which for centuries, spanned parts of north africa, europe, and the middle east. (explosion) after world war i, brought about the collapse of that empire, turkey sought to reinvent itself. - in direct aftermath of world war i, turkey was trying to rebuild. it had lost a huge portion of it's population, it was engaged in the process of trying to create a new turkish national identity. - it turned it's face to europe, because at that time, it was fashioned by mustafa kemal ataturk to be a secular, western styled european republic. - [narrator] ataturk, a former military commander, rose to power. fostering a progressive, democratic, and secular form of government. - he saw modern civilization as fundamentally western civilization, and tried to bring turkish civilization into what he saw,
as international norms. - [narrator] with the end of world war ii, the u.s. alliance with turkey, became critical. - [second narrator] in the middle east today, chaotic, vulnerable to soviet extension, turkey, modern, powerful, and a rarity in this area, pro-western, is prepared to defend herself against any aggressor. (epic music) - the reason that turkey was so important for nato, is because it put us right there, on the soviet union's borders. - turkey prevented soviet union's access to the warm seas, because of it's control of the turkish straits. the dardanelles and the bosphorus. because of that, the soviets were not able to become a middle eastern power, or a mediterranean power. - [narrator] turkey's contribution to nato
did not end with the fall of the soviet union. - it's absolutely a critical nato member state, because it gives the alliance access to a broader swath of the world. if there are military engagements in that part of the world. - [narrator] but the internal politics of turkey, have not always been stable. the military has a history of seizing control of the democratically elected government through coup d'etat. - the military gradually through coups, gave itself the role to guard ataturk's legacy, and it became accepted, by the end of the last century, that the military was the grand arbiter, if an elected approached politics. (military chants) (speaks in turkish) - [translator] the first democratic elections in turkey were held in 1950, and the first military coup came 10 years after that. the prime minister, the president of parliament, and the minister of foreign affairs were executed.
after that, a coup was made, almost every 10 years. - [narrator] economic turmoil, in the 1990s, saw turkey's political landscape, swing away from secularism, and toward islamist parties. - what happens when political parties, mess up a country's economy? they get voted out. that's what happened to turkey's traditional parties. the economy had several crises. there were incompetent governments, there was a very bloody war going on between the kurdish insurgency, the pkk, so at the end of the 90s, turkish society, a lot of people in turk society were looking for a way out, like a new era. and, that era was promised by prime minister, tayyip erdogan, and his party the akp. (ethnic music) - [narrator] in 2002, the islamist based, justice and development party, akp, won a landslide election victory,
promising to fix the economy, and to stick to secular principles of the constitution. recep tayyip erdogan, he's kind of the juliani, of istanbul, you know, he's known for cleaning up the streets, he's known for getting water and electricity to people. - ak party benched to consolidate the ring wing world, behind it's ticket, but in the subsequent years, also ak party pursued a very smart strategy of absorbing smaller, remaining, right wing politicians, groups, actors. (ethnic music) - the first decade of the akp in power, is mainly a success story. from 2002 to 2012 at least. here you see, turkey really making great advances, in the economy, life improvements for everybody. (ethnic music)
- [narrator] with a strong economy, comes political clout. despite ongoing western concerns about human rights issues, turkey moved ahead with long stand negotiations to become a member of the european union. - turkey has been at the door for decades, it seemed that there was a way forward. that turkey did fit, could fit into europe. - there were countries in europe, there were europe, which also believed that turkey, a muslim majority nation, joining the eu, will be great news for the world. - the fact that europe welcome, in turkey in, begin the process of negotiation for them to become a full member of the europe union, is an historic event. it shows that those who believe there is some fundamental clash of civilizations between christian and muslim, are actually wrong. - [narrator] turkey abolished the death penalty in peace time, promoted greater freedom of expression,
as well as the rights of women, and turkey's oppressed kurdish minority. - eu membership talks, motivated a lot of positive change in turkey, that includes reforms for minorities, that includes putting the military back into barracks and outside of politics. that includes economic progress. - erdogan forged an alliance with a popular islamic preacher, fethullah gulen and his followers. - they were erdogan's ally, and in many ways they were part of the intellectual power, of the erdogan administration. strong, circumstantial evidence suggests, that they became particularly active in the judiciary and in the police, in turkey, and now appears at least somewhat in the military as well. - the gulen movement is a mind boggling phenomenon.
when you look from the outside, it's a civil society movement, that focuses on education, good education, and charities, and ngos that emphasize interfaith dialogue, tolerance, love, all the good concepts., that one could imagine. and the other side, is that the movement had a long strategy to raise a cadre, to gain power in turkey's important bureaucratic institutions. - [narrator] in 2007, the military took note of the akp's growing power, and inserted itself into a tense presidential election, seeming to undermine the akp candidate, refusing to back down, erdogan and the akp won broad electoral support to cross all sectors of turkish society. - in 2007, the akp was at the height of it's success in popularity, and here was a party, four years in power,
accomplished amazing things, liberal reforms, progress with the european union, economy boomed. and what was the problem with the akp at the time? oh, the wives of important people in the akp were wearing a headscarf. i mean that was the biggest problem in the country. which was ridiculous to a lot of people, including myself. - the military issues a warning to the akp in 2007, erdogan did not step down, and turks realized that hell does not freeze over when the turkish military issues a warning and the government does not listen. - he came to power scared, that the military could dislodge him at any time, and in the end, he ended up dominating the military, and a major inflection point, that allowed him do that, were these trails, largely based on phony evidence, that lopped off the leadership of the military. the first purge of the military, in between 2008 and 2011. - [narrator] the strengthening akp proved a welcome partner to the united states, as the party increased turkey's role
on the world stage. but when the u.s. invaded iraq, turkey open it's airspace, but voted to close it's land border. - it is hard to imagine, a u.s. partner, that was more effective, in that period from 2002 to roughly 2012. - u.s. wanted to invade iraq through turkey, and turkey took the position of not allowing the u.s. to do so, which was pretty strong position, but i would say, aligned with their policy of zero problems with neighbors. certainly, if you talked to people in the u.s. military, they're still angry. the united states, which had already sort of been planning around the idea of using the northern border, felt jilted. - [reporter] good morning. - good morning, how are you? - but the turks did cooperate with the united states, logistically allowed it's airspace to be used, over time, the united states and turkey did coordinate
in order to help improve turkish security as a result of the invasion. - [narrator] as eu remained elusive, erdogan saw less reason to continue the implementation of democratic reforms. - quotes made by nicholas sarkozy, angela markel, people saying, you know, "well, turkey will never be a full member, "we'll have to have a special relationship." "well, they don't necessarily belong in a christian club." things like that. those words were quite significant in how akp politicians thought about their future prospects within the eu. (speaking in german) - [female translator] we can't accept everyone into europe as a full a member. this is why, our joint position, is a privilege partnership for turkey, but no full membership. (speaking in turkish) - [male translator] they have been stringing turkey along for many years. they are not showing a clear intention. while many countries, which are smaller,
and hold less power than turkey, have been made members of the european union, without questioning. - the europeans haven't decided whether europe is a geography, essentially coterminous with predominantly christian countries, or whether this is an exclusive club of countries, that have come together based on common set of democratic ideals, and principals and norms. - the government of turkey, erdogan, they are responsible, too. because i think the akp government, used the eu process, while it was necessary for itself. it was necessary to get rid of the military. it was necessary to get rid of a constitutional court that can close down political parties like themselves. - [narrator] fault lines in turkey's political landscape, began to emerge. by 2013, cleric fethullah gulen, living in exile in pennsylvania, and president erdogan, had become rivals. - the gulens, at a certain point,
have made changes in the turkish politics. they came to stage where, i think, they believed that they could shape the turkish political structure. - you start to have this wave of tapes, and information about dirty dealing, and corruption, and, it was effectively an attempt to dethrone erdogan, to force him from power. - once they defeated their common enemy, turkey's secular military lead, erdogan was quickly able to shift gears and make the gulen movement, even before the coup, into public enemy number one. - [narrator] fuel was added to the fire when washington began to arm kurdish forces to fight isis. - from the turkish perspective, turkey, a nato ally, the ypg is a terrorist organization. - it was stood by another kurdish organization,
a turkish-kurdish organization, called the kurdistan worker's party, known by it's acronym, the pkk. and the pkk has been waging a terrorist war against the turkish state since the mid-1980s. so, here we have this extraordinarily complicated, and rather awkward situation, in which the united states, is working with, the sworn enemy of one of it's most important allies. - the united states introduced striker armored personnel carrier vehicles, to northern syria, and the stated official reason for that was to deter, using the word deter, attacks by turkey, on u.s. ally's kurdish militia forces. so, we're functionally now, putting assets in place, to prevent a u.s. ally, from striking another u.s. ally. that's a complicated relationship. (dramatic music)
- [narrator] in 2016, turkish forces, loyal to erdogan, put down an attempted coup d'etat, which erdogan blamed on exiled cleric gulen. - [translator] i have never supported a coup, or an ouster. i think any change should happen as a result of an election, if that is required. it is important the democracy is not harmed. - erdogan has been reshuffling the senior military staff. he has been removing secular generals. if you know one of the senior generals, and you see that there's a high probability you're going to be purged, the leader is no longer gonna be delivering the goodies to you. one of the things you have to think about, "maybe i can get rid of this guy." - [translator] gulenist terrorists were known in the military, and they were going to be discharged. the government intelligence agencies,
had proof of who was who. before this happened, they decided to attempted a coup. on the night of july 15, turkish people saw tanks in the streets. - erdogan's response to the coup was, probably he had a shock in the beginning like most people, but, in a few hours, he did something very important, he, with his cellphone, called cnn turk, turkey's most important new channel, and said that, "i'm alive, i'm here, i'm resisting, "and i'm calling on my citizens to go out on the streets, "and resist the coup." (speaking turkish) - [translator] turks have such character. they'd rather die than live on land that is occupied. this trait is why people stayed out that night in the streets, refusing to go home, despite the tanks,
helicopters, and f16s flying low. i was shot nine times myself. - [narrator] the crackdown was swift, as once again, erdogan purged the government and military of alleged gulen supporters. - what we're seeing is the consolidation of power that he had been engaged in, now was on steroids. arresting more journalists, shutting down hundreds of media outlets, closing hundreds, and hundreds of ngos, detaining tens of thousands. (speaking turkish) - [translator] it should never be forgotten, that the failed coup in turkey was aimed at the global democracy as well. our national taught a historical lesson to those intending to plot coup attempts everywhere, and became a source of inspiration for all nations
committed to the protection of democracy. - he has delivered economic growth, and lifted people out of poverty, which is why they like him. he also has a dark side. he has demonized, and cracked down on demographics, that are not likely to vote for him. you got half of the country that adores erdogan, that's mostly conservative, that literally worships him, and you got another half of the country, that hates him, and thinks turkey is hell, and there's nobody in the middle. - [narrator] in 2017, erdogan held a constitutional referendum, turning turkey from a parliamentary democracy, to a presidential republic. transferring executive power to the president. - he wants an executive presidency, somewhat similar to the united state's system. the problem is that, the checks and balances that make a presidential system like that work, and prevent it from turning a full authoritarian system, are no longer in place. - he got total control over the executive,
the legislative, and the judiciary. so the three, typically separate powers of the state, basically became unified under the authority of the president. - president erdogan of turkey, said you know, "democracies "are bus. "and when it gets to your stop, you get off." - [narrator] american and european leaders now face a turkey that seems ambivalent to what had been historically strong alliances, the west's promotion of democratic values may take a backset to security concerns. - from the turkish perspective, the invasion of iraq compromised turkey's security. from the turkish perspective, america's unwillingness to do anything about
the civil war in syria, compromised turkish security. the fact that the united states is now working with a kurdish group in syria that turkey regards to be a terrorist organization, has compromised turkish security. from turkish perspective, what kind of nato ally is the united states, if it keeps doing things that undermine turkish security. - turkey has felt that there's a double standard in europe. that other states have gone ahead of turkey, when turkey should already be in it. - erdogan needs europe because eu excession process, and the common market that turkey shares with eu, are both economically beneficial. and we know that erdogan wins elections, so as long as he delivers economic growth. - [narrator] turkey continues to be a strategic ally with both nato and the united states, but those relationships are increasingly complicated. - the question is becoming much less clear,
at least on the short terms. the united states, and most of our european nato allies, believe that nato should be alliance of democracies, and turkey isn't in any meaningful sense, a democracy. - turkey is not a reliable u.s. ally, that does not mean they are not a strategically vital u.s. allly. but, their interests are conflicting to a point now, where it's become bloody. it is incumbent on us to stop turning a blind eye to that. until it becomes too late, because too late is coming up very soon. (crowd shouting) - [narrator] the u.s. reluctance to immediately extradite gulen to turkey for what erdogan says was his role in the 2016 coup, has hurt relations. (speaks turkish) - [translator] the u.s. and turkey have been allies for many years, and our wold views are the same. both countries are very eager to operate on
common interests. this relationship, of course, cannot be broken by the different attitudes of some administrators. but what we expect from the american government, is at least to bring a terrorist, like fethullah gulen, before a court to face justice. - the united states should only extradite fethullah gulen, if the turks present evidence of his guilt, and that a court determines two things, one, that he is in fact likely guilty, and that he can get a fair trial. - [narrator] american policy makers are concerned that russia is using the syrian conflict to gain a long term foothold in the region. - initially, we would think that the syrian conflict wouldn't bring turkey and russia closer together, because russia supports the assad regime, and erdogan was very much in favor of basshir al-assad's ouster.
i think what we can see is that there maybe some sort of new possibilities for alignment that might come out of the syrian conflict, that hadn't been there before. (dramatic music) - [narrator] russia can never replace the west. not the untied states particularly, but the west, because despite all the attempts to reach out and branch out the economy, branch out, i'm gonna tell you, the truth is that turkey is very much dependent on investment from europe in particular. - turkey so desperate wants, a, the u.s. to stop arming the ypg, and b, the u.s. to extradite fethullah gulen. and so, i think you see a turkey that has given up it's hope of reforging a new, better relationship with the u.s. and has perhaps, turned towards russia. - [narrator] the turks have a saying, "real friends tell bitter truths." for now, washington has little choice, but to remain engaged with turkey,
still serving as a bridge between east and west. but a once secure relationship, may now become a game of constantly shifting alliances. great decisions is america's largest discussion program on global affairs. discussion groups meet in community centers, libraries, places of worship, and homes across the country, to discuss global issues with their community. participants read the atopic briefing book, meet to discuss each top, and compelte a ballot, which shares their views with congress. to start or join a discussion group in your community, visit greatdecisions.org. or call, 1-800-477-5836. great decisions is produced by the foreign policy association, in association with thompson reuters.
funding for great decisions is provided by price waterhouse coppers llp. (dramatic music) - [announcer] next time, on great decisions. america has the world's only global military, no one comes close. that makes the pentagon the agency american leaders turn to when they want to get something done overseas. cross rooms. america's defense strategy. next time, on great decisions. (upbeat music)
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